The Weeknd gives R&B the time of day again

Singer delves into inner pain with "My Dear Melancholy,"

weeknd

Album: “My Dear Melancholy,”

Artist: The Weeknd

Label: XO

Release Date: March 30

Grade: A-

When The Weeknd rose to underground fame in 2010, much of his appeal revolved around mystery.

The singer, also known as legal name Abel Tesfaye, uploaded tracks to YouTube under his stage name, without any information about his identity. The guy was an unknown and his dark R&B music reflected that. Tesfaye brought something unusual to the table and many fans point to “Trilogy” as his magnum opus.

Well, fame hit and Tesfaye shifted gears. R&B’s mystery man created some near-perfect pop music, soaked in the fame and slowly became a household name.

But with fame comes heartbreak.

Tesfaye’s latest release, “My Dear Melancholy,” is the closest thing to his original sound in years. Pain has taken a toll on The Weeknd, and after his public brakeup with superstar Selena Gomez, he leaves nothing to the imagination.

Through just six tracks and 22 minutes, Tesfaye takes listeners on a journey of honesty, heartbreak and hurt ––three traits that were noticeably missing from 2016’s pop-infused “Starboy.”

The most noticeable difference between the two records is genre. Even though Tesfaye shined in pop music with help from some of the best in the business, his real gift is the dark R&B, which he returns to in his latest release.

“My Dear Melancholy,” lacks tracks that gas up the singer and show off material possessions, but shines in its truthfulness. As Tesfaye reveals his worst inner feelings, tracks like opener “Call Out My Name” bring out the best of R&B’s former champion of mystery.

The song is an emotional plea to a former lover disguised as a masterful percussive piece. Tesfaye sings of a rough breakup, where his departing lover flees despite him still being in love with her.

The hardest hitting lyrics of the track break through the chorus. Tesfaye sings “why don’t you wait until I fall out of love?” as the track hits peak volume in terms of instrumentation.

The slow-paced percussive gem digs deep into the singer’s former relationship. “I almost cut a piece of myself for your life,” Tesfaye sings, which many think is a reference to Gomez’s 2017 kidney transplant.

In “Call Out My Name” Tesfaye claims his ex wasted his time, and follows up on this theme later on in “Wasted Times.”

In the most pop-centric track of the record, Tesfaye doesn’t refer to his former relationship as a waste of time, but rather his current flings. He asks his ex who she’s currently seeing, claims that he has “no business catching feelings,” yet still says he wants to wake up next to her. The song shows a rare and conflicted side of a superstar, while still dishes out one of the smoothest beats of the album.

Another album highlight is “Hurt You,” a four-minute “get away from me” plea from Tesfaye to his ex. Toward the back half of “My Dear Melancholy,” the singer flips the script. He no longer has to beg for his former lover to come back, but rather for her to get away from him.

Tesfaye explains the emotional toll the relationship took on him again in the track. He tells his ex-lover, who he claims was suicidal, that if she ever reached out to him again he’d just take advantage of her.

The track’s verses and bridges are melodically excellent, but the chorus is lackluster and repetitive. With plenty of room for creativity, the singer just sticks to the same phrase several times over: “I don’t want to hurt you.”

Still, sirens and the song’s massive beat combined with the singer’s falsetto make for one of the most infectious tracks on the album.

The closer, “Privilege,” is Tesfaye’s appropriately-placed goodbye to his lover. In a filtered breakdown, with a raindrop-esque sound shining through, he sings that he’ll “f—k the pain away” letting his ex know that he’s moved on. He claimed that his ex was not only “privileged,” but that he’s given up on being her shoulder to cry on.

“My Dear Melancholy,” takes the listener through The Weeknd’s stages of grief. From begging his lover to come back, to expressing his anger toward his lover, to finally letting it all go, the project by far is the singer’s most emotional piece of work.

Even though The Weeknd excelled with pop, it looks like he’s found his place again.

Brenton Blanchet is the senior arts editor and can be reached at Brenton.blanchet@ubspectrum.com

Twitter: @brentblanchspec